Blake's Lawyer Burglarized; Hearing Delayed

Times Staff Writer

A day after a jury was chosen to hear the murder trial of actor Robert Blake, his lawyer met today with the judge to discuss a break-in at the lawyer's home.

Judge Darlene E. Schempp delayed until Monday an evidentiary hearing in Blake's trial for the shooting death of Bonny Lee Bakley. The jury was sent home until Monday.

Lawyer Gerald Schwartzbach met in chambers for half an hour with the judge this morning.

Los Angeles police were investigating a possible break-in and theft from Schwartzbach's apartment on Wednesday. Someone apparently forced open the front door, Officer Jason Lee said.

"Obviously, this is a disturbing development," Schwartzbach said this morning.

Attorney Jim Blatt, who was appointed by Schempp to ensure that defense information was not tampered with during the police investigation, said that a memory stick, a computer and golf clubs were taken from the apartment.

Schwartzbach was asked about any possible effects of the break-in.

"One thing I want people to very clearly understand is, one, that Robert Blake and I have an excellent relationship. Two, both Mr. Blake and I are determined to save the present jury. We are more than satisfied that they are a fair jury. We want this trial," he said.

A jury, with six alternates, was selected Wednesday.

The murder trial was expected to last several months. Hundreds of people have been identified as potential witnesses.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court in Van Nuys draws jurors from the San Fernando Valley, which tends to be more conservative than jury pools in other parts of the city.

According to questionnaires completed by jurors, one admires Jesus Christ, Paul McCartney and President Bush, in that order, and dislikes Osama bin Laden, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Several said they own or have fired guns. Several said they have previously served on a jury or know someone connected to police work.

Under California law, courts are prohibited from identifying jurors before a trial concludes.

Asked whether they had any opinions of Blake, 71, best known for playing the title role in "Baretta" on TV, one juror described him as a "macho character." Another said, "He's gotten old."

Blake faces life in prison if convicted of killing Bakley, 44, the night of May 4, 2001, while she sat alone in his parked car about 100 yards from a Studio City restaurant where they had just eaten.

Prosecutors say the actor asked two stuntmen to kill Bakley. Each refused and will be called to testify for the prosecution.

Blake told Los Angeles police he had left Bakley in the passenger seat of his car and returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun that he had left at their table. Blake said that when he got back, he found Bakley slumped in the seat, bleeding from a gunshot wound.

This is the second time this year that hundreds of potential jurors were summoned for the Blake trial.

Jury selection was postponed in February after Blake's then-lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., quit, citing "irreconcilable differences" with his client.

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